Saturday, February 15, 2014

Alive and Well

Saturday, February 1

Havana has a spectacular cemetery, along the lines of the Recoleta in Buenos Aires.  There are as many people in the cemetery as in Havana (2.5 million).   But not quite as healthy.
Our bouncy guide leads us down the First Class Section, and says: "This is the only place in Cuba that has a class system.  Here in the First Class Section are buried Presidents and famous people."  

Cuba is all about equality, altho if you've been reading the paper some Cubans are apparently more equal than others...

"Families own the mausoleums, often a miniature of their own mansions."  Before TTOTR, of course.  Still own the tomb, small problem with the mansion.

"After the revolution, the cemetery was the only place you could own property - too late."  He laughs and points at a statue.

"An exact replica of The Pieta.  Have you seen the Pieta?  In Rome?"  When several people answer yes, he says, "Lucky you!  I have never been there!" and he laughs like crazy. 

Capitalism is alive and well here - in the cemetery.

Some of the statues look like they could talk, or get up and walk away:
Bodies are left in the tomb for two years, then the bones are removed and put in a ossuary.  That's how they fit 2.5 million in such a small space.  

Ibrahim Ferrer, famed for being a member of The Buena Vista Social Club is buried here.  Artists and musicians are about the only people who can get rich in Cuba (I don't know about the politicians and party faithful - you're on your own there) and Ibrahim Ferrer made enough money to buy a tomb in the first class section.  We can see where the old family's name was sanded off.  Don't forget to pay your rent!
Someone's family and friends, dressed in their Sunday best are filing into the chapel.  A hearse pulls up:  
I don't think it will catch on in the US.  Well, maybe among the Subaru crowd...

Abelardo's family tomb is here - after some discussion with our guide, he and his wife and daughter go in search.  Hector is on the phone, spelling the name, trying to find someone in the Cemetery office who knows where the tomb is.  

Laredo Bru was President of Cuba, and was Abelardo's great uncle. We are silent, respectful, emotional, waiting.  They come back crying and laughing, their words tumbling over each other.  They found it.  I think: these are the only relatives they were able to visit in Cuba.  

Delin stands in the aisle and thanks us for sharing this very emotional trip with her, and her family, and invites us all to her house.  Tears are rolling down my cheeks, and I look up and everyone is crying.  What an experience, what a privilege to share this journey.

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